Archive for Martin Biron
The return of Sidney Crosby promptly ended the Rangers mini-winning streak as the Pens dropped the Rangers tonight 5-2 at Madison Square Garden. The Blue shirt’s Jekyll and Hyde play in this game ultimately was their undoing. There was a lot of positives to take away from this game as well as quite a few negatives. To the bullets…
- 1st Period
- The Rangers started off the game trying to establish a physical presence. Boyle and Prust were targeting Malkin relentlessly. Unfortunately, that physical edge would not last long.
- It seemed like the Rangers were getting their bearings for the first half of the period. They almost needed to prove to themselves that they could skate with Pittsburgh.
- Tough bounce on the Pen’s first goal. Biron made a nice pad save and the rebound went off the crossbar, off Bickel and into the net. 1-0 Penguins.
- The PK unit looked great in the first. They were all over Crosby at the point and not allowing the wingers to gain possession along the sidewalls.
- Carl Hagelin was able to pot a rebound chance off a scramble in front to tie the score at the 13:36 mark. That line was at it again. 1-1.
- Marty Biron had a rock solid first period, with great saves on several Penguins chances.
- 2nd Period
- Carl Hagelin was the best player on the ice (non-Malkin addition) in the first period and continued his strong play into the second. He was a forechecking machine and created several turnovers in the offensive zone.
- James Neal had a tremendous individual effort on Malkin’s goal. He stripped the puck from Ryan McDonagh and made a fantastic pass to Malkin on the doorstep to give the Pens the lead. 2-1 Pittsburgh.
- 1:12 later, Matt Cooke put the Pens up by a pair. Broken defensive coverage allowed Cooke to sneak in the far side for basically an empty net goal. Gabby got caught in no man’s land on the back check. 3-1 Pens.
- The Rangers got some chances in the latter half of the second. Marc-Andre Fleury had an unbelievable glove save on Marian Gaborik, and Brandon Prust followed that up by banging one off the crossbar.
- The Rangers would pull within one with about five and a half minutes to go in the second. Gaborik made a terrific back pass on a give and go to Brad Richards and eventually found himself in the slot and buried the shot under Fleury’s right arm. 3-2 Penguins.
- Late in the second period, the Ranger’s lost Artem Anisimov with an upper body injury sustained on a body check. He would not return for the remainder of the game.
- 3rd Period
- Play was a little timid to start the third. The teams started out 4-on-4 before the Penguins would eventually see the last minute or so of the double minor to Stu Bickel assessed at the end of the second. The Rangers did a nice job killing the penalty, but as it was expiring, Brian Boyle blocked a shot that left him limping. It was essentially a 5-on-3 as Bickel raced from the box and Chris Kunitz was able to beat Marty Biron over his right shoulder off a feed from Crosby. 4-2 Penguins.
- The Penguins would put the final nail in the coffin several minutes later after Pascal Dupuis banged home a rebound that Biron probably should have controlled or deflected. 5-2 Penguins.
- The Rangers had several good chances in the final 6 minutes or so but Marc Andre Fleury had a couple ridiculous saves.
- Marc Andre Fleury was terrific tonight, making 29 saves. He quashed several good scoring chances the Rangers (mostly the Hagelin-Richards-Gaborik line) created. His glove was a major weapon tonight.
- Marty Biron obviously faired a little worse than Fleury in this one. Overall, I thought he played pretty well though. The first goal was a brutal bounce and there was very little he could have done on the Malkin and Cooke goals. The rebound on Dupuis’ goal and his positioning on Kunitz was a little sketchy, but he battled and made some nice saves for the team.
- Although the result is not what we were all looking for, it wasn’t as bad as the score would indicate. Considering the absences of Lundqvist, Callahan and Del Zotto, the Rangers could have played much, much worse.
- That said, the Rangers lost this game when they stopped forechecking and maintaining their physical edge. The only line that was really doing much of anything offensively was the new top unit.
- Too many wide shots tonight. When your opportunities are limited, you need to at least force the goalie to make a save.
- Kris Letang was +5 tonight.
- McDonagh had a rough game. He saw Staal take his spot on the top pair after the Malkin goal and made a few questionable decisions as the game went along. Hopefully he can put it behind him and come out strong against Colorado.
- The secondary scoring has to start to come with some consistency. The Stepan-Dubi-Anisimov line has to be better than they were tonight. They showed flashes of promise, but they need to put it together consistently.
- Even though Crosby’s line did some damage, I actually thought they defended him personally pretty well.
- Health is so unbelievably important down the stretch into the playoffs. This team needs Cally/Hank/DZ back asap.
Off tomorrow then the red hot Avalanche come to town Saturday night.
The Rangers got the better of the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 4-2 at The Garden tonight. The Blueshirts were led by an unbelievable performance from the newly formed Hagelin-Richards-Gaborik line, resulting in all four Rangers goals and extended puck possession and pressure for the entire game. Let’s get to those bullets…
- 1st period
- The Rangers got off to a strong start, creating chances from multiple areas of the offensive zone.
- The forecheck was another positive facet of the Rangers’ game early. All four lines were able to create pressure in the offensive zone.
- Marian Gaborik started the scoring off early in the first. Dan Girardi sent a point shot wide, and Gabby popped in a beautiful little shot off Cam Ward’s pad. 1-0 Rangers.
- The penalty kill was working in the first period. Marty Biron made several key saves despite a somewhat boneheaded move to try and clear the zone up the middle. Ruslan Fedetenko made a great save to bail him out of that one.
- Oh that Jeff Skinner, you can’t take your eye off him for a second.
- It was very clear early on that the aforementioned Hagelin-Richards-Gaborik line was the best unit on the ice. Hagelin was absolutely flying in the first.
- 2nd period
- The second started off a little slow, but that wouldn’t last long. During the lull I remember thinking that John Mitchell is a pretty strong puck handler, but he always seems to try to make that one extra move or hold the puck one second too long.
- Martin Biron made an enormous save on Brandon Sutter to keep the game 1-0.
- The Rangers would extend the lead to 2-0 on a Brad Richards top shelf snipe. The Rangers had a strong forecheck and forced the Carolina defender to deflect the puck on goal. Cam Ward was clearly surprised by the play and lost his stick in the scramble. He tried to reset himself as Richards took a sneaky little shot through the defender and up where grandma hides the cookies. 2-0 Rangers.
- The (this line really needs a nickname) Richard’s line struck again with an unbelievable play by Carl Hagelin leading to another Brad Richard’s goal. He shielded the puck with his body before sliding a beautiful reverse pass to find Richards all alone in the slot. He carried the puck to the center for a better angle and fired another beauty into the top shelf. Ridiculously patient play by Richards. 3-0 Rangers.
- The Rangers would be stung by a couple of unfortunate deflections later in the period. The first Carolina goal was scored on the powerplay on a call I wasn’t a huge fan of. Mats Zuccarello was called for tripping when the reply showed he didn’t make nearly enough contact to justify a penalty, but whatever, it is what it is. 3-1 Rangers.
- Carolina would strike again :32 seconds later on a broken odd-man rush. The attempted shot slid right onto the stick of Drayson (I don’t think that’s a real first name) Bowman, who fired the puck past Biron. 3-2 Rangers.
- Cam Ward made several key saves at the end of the 2nd period to keep this one 3-2 going into the second intermission.
- 3rd period
- The third period started off with a symphony of iron. First, Eric Staal hit the post on a shorthanded chance. Then Mats Zuccarello hit iron on a Rangers’ powerplay, and Marian Gaborik hit the post on a laser shortly after the powerplay expired.
- The games really started to open up in the third period. Odd man rushes were common place and both teams exchanged chances. I would imagine this did not sit too well with Torts.
- Carl Hagelin would finally get the goal he deserved with seven minutes left to play. He made a nice little pass to Gaborik for a quality chance before getting the puck back behind the net. Tim Gleason cheated for the pass and Hagelin was able to walk right around Cam Ward for a much needed insurance goal. 4-2 Rangers.
- The ‘Canes pulled Ward with about 2 minutes left, but to no avail. The Blueshirts would hold on the win despite being without Lundqvist, Callahan and Del Zotto.
- I thought Cam Ward played well despite his statistical line. He had some trouble with rebounds, but was incredibly frustrating as Carolina clawed their way back. I think he’s going to get serious consideration for the Canadian Olympic team in 2014 (assuming NHL players play that is).
- Marty Biron rebounded nicely from some subpar outings recently and gave the Rangers exactly the kind of performance they needed. He made some big saves early and I wouldn’t put much if any blame on him for the two Carolina goals. Bad bounces.
- Just how good was the top line tonight? Gaborik: 1g, 2a, +4, 6 SOG. Richards: 2g, 1a, +3, 4 SOG. Hagelin: 1g, 2a, +4, 5 SOG. Dominant.
- The defense was very good overall tonight. There were times where it looked like Carolina would be able to create a chance and the whole zone would close in on them. Staal played big against his brother.
- If Tort’s decides to keep this line together, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the lines begin to take shape. Would you like to see a Dubinsky-Stepan-Callahan line? Anisimov-Stepan-Cally?
- Magic number is now just 4 pts for a playoff spot. The difference a year makes.
Off tomorrow, then the big showdown with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Thursday. Even if the Pens win, they will still be down 4 points with just 12 games to go, but wouldn’t an 8 point lead look nice?
The Rangers grinded out a gutsy win in Carolina tonight, beating the ‘Canes 3-2 behind a fantastic defensive effort and a very solid game by Marty Biron. Marian Gaborik scored to net his 30th of the year, and his 7th 30 goal season overall. Seems like the theme lately has been a period by period recap, so I’ll give it a try (let me know which format you guys prefer in the comments). To the bullets…
- 1st Period
- During the first period the Rangers had a solid forecheck going and were doing a nice job getting penetration into the offensive zone. The problem was they weren’t developing quality chances from that penetration. They were moving the puck well enough to evade pressure from the Hurricanes, but not well enough to put quality shots on Cam Ward.
- Defensively the Blueshirts did a fantastic job of getting sticks into passing lanes and forcing Carolina’s wingers to the outside on the rush. Ryan McDonagh was especially impressive early on.
- With :50 seconds remaining in the first, Brandon Dubinsky took what I will assume was a stupid penalty (I didn’t seem like any MSG camera actually caught Dubinsky throw Jiri Tlusty’s stick), which drew the ire of coach John Tortorella. Dubinsky wouldn’t see the ice the rest of the game.
- 2nd period
- What do you know? That penalty came back to the bite the Rangers as Jeff Skinner snuck a shot through Marty Biron’s arm on a point blank slap shot. As a goalie, those goals are absolutely infuriating. 1-0 Carolina.
- As Dubinsky continued to sit, the recipient of his minutes seemed to be John Mitchell. Mitchell played about 15 minutes and played a solid game. He seemed to have a nice chemistry with Richards/Hagelin as well.
- The Ranger’s continued to play excellent defense through the second period. Michael Del Zotto exited the game early with an apparent hip injury, which pressed Marc Staal into bigger minutes as the game went on.
- The Rangers would tie the game on a hard wrist shot from Artem Anismov off a nice little back pass from Marian Gaborik. The play wouldn’t have happened however, without some tremendous work by Derek Stepan in the neutral zone after blocking a shot. The shot seemed to handcuff Cam Ward a little bit, as he threw the puck in frustration after the puck bounced out. 1-1.
- I caught myself wondering at one point in the second…why would Carolina want to stir anything up with the Rupp/Scott combination?
- Gaborik would put the Rangers ahead later in the second when he banged in the rebound of a Derek Stepan shot. Gabby made a strong play in the slot to create a good chance and then didn’t give up on the play and was able to guide the rebound home. Very strong play for the Rangers leading goal scorer as he pocketed his 30th of the season. 2-1 Rangers.
- 3rd period
- The Rangers caught a break at the start of the third period when the puck ricocheted off the lines man and right onto the stick of Brian Boyle, who would make a beauty of a pass to Brandon Prust to give the Rangers some insurance. 3-1 Rangers.
- Jeff Skinner is absolutely filthy. Crazy how two of Carolina’s best players can’t legally drink yet. (Skinner and Falk)
- The last 10 or so minutes of the game, the Rangers killed 6 minutes worth of penalties. The bulk of which was assessed when John Mitchell accidentally clipped Jay Harrison with his stick. Blood was drawn, 4 minutes.
- The ensuing penalty kill was magnificent. Prust and Boyle were at their very best, while Staal continued to round into form with a strong effort on the PK. Also, Dan Girardi is a warrior.
- The ‘Canes drew within one goal with :39 seconds remaining after some slightly blown coverage from the aforementioned Girardi and Staal (not nearly enough impact to mar the fantastic game both played). Jay Harrison was there to tap it in on the doorstep. 3-2 Rangers.
- New York was able to hold on in regulation to win their 8th game in their last 11.
Obligatory Goaltending Notes
- I thought both goaltenders played terrific tonight. Neither one had a ton of work, but both made great saves at various points of the game.
- Cam Ward isn’t a flashy goalie, but despite the 3 goals, he continues to show why he is one of the game’s best despite a suspect blue line.
- Marty Biron had a nice bounce back game after a couple bumps in the road in the form of Chicago and the Islanders. He had a slight case of rebounditis in the first third of the game or so, but his confidence clearly grew as the game went on and ended up making several key saves.
- Torts might as well have put a dunce hat on the Dubi and made him sit facing the corner for the rest of the game. Torts was visibly irritated about that penalty in his presser.
- Brandon Prust was the 1st star of this game for me. Absolute monster out there.
- I’m going to say this with the assumption that DZ’s injury is nothing serious; I think it’s time to bump Staal up to the second pair. The coaching staff has done a tremendous job bringing him back slowly this year, but I think the training wheels are ready to come off. He played over 20 minutes tonight, and I don’t think any of us would be against demoting Anton Stralman to the third pair with Stu Bickel. Not that Stralman hasn’t played well, but clearly Staal is the better player.
- I’m not sure how many of you had the privilege of watching the MSG post game, but if you did you were able to behold that shirt that Ron Duguay was wearing. Just terrific Ron, terrific.
Right back at it tomorrow night in Tampa at 7pm, as the Rangers try to run their winning streak to 4 in a row. Don’t forget to be here tomorrow at noon for the BSB Live Chat!
A little bit of a different approach tonight; breaking the game down by period. The Rangers dropped a decision to the Isles, 4-3 at the Coliseum having trailed by two twice in the game.
Simply put, the Rangers stunk out the Coliseum in the first period and were lucky to be just the odd goal down heading in to the first intermission. Some first period thoughts for your amusement:
- The more I see of Stu Bickel the less I see a future for him. His skating is poor, his fighting is often completely unnecessary, his positioning is erratic and he’s inherited the home run pass without inheriting the necessary passing ability. I fail to see what he brings to this team any longer. Wolski must really be in the dog house.
- A blind pass from Dubinsky into center ice almost led to a full breakaway for the Isles late on. It was possibly his biggest contribution of the first period. Tumbleweed….
- In the first half of the first period the Rangers were devoid of energy, lost almost every puck battle, struggled (once again) to control the puck offensively and created nothing.
- John Tavares is a tremendous hockey player. When you are playing against such a talented player you take away his space and not allow him to do whatever he wants with the puck. Tavares had time to pick up speed in the neutral zone, he had time to dish off the puck numerous occasions and each time: no Ranger close by. Epitomized the Rangers’ lethargic beginning.
- Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau really enjoy playing the Rangers.
- Unlike Bickel, I would like to see John Mitchell stick. He uses the puck well, can skate and seems to make things happen when he gets the opportunity. He’s a useful bottom six guy to have as he works hard and has some offensive ability.
- Don’t blame Biron on either first period Islander goal. The Rangers defending of Moulson and Tavares was borderline criminal on the first; while Parenteau had acres of space to unleash his shot on the second. If you wanted to nitpick perhaps Biron was a little too aggressive on the Parenteau goal. Other than that, he was square to the shooter and didn’t seem shaky.
- The Rangers Powerplay goal (the first against the Isles in 4 games this year): following a nice play from Mitchell, Staal simply threw it on net from a tight angle with the help of a screen. It wasn’t good goaltending but it was heads-up play from Staal to use the defenseman and sneak one past Nabakov short side.
Well, every team is due a clunker once in a while. The Rangers basically lost this game in the first ten minutes of the first period, allowing 4 goals to the Blackhawks, who held on for the win 4-2. The win snaps a 9-game losing streak for the ‘Hawks and a 4-game win streak for the Rangers. I’m not going to dwell too much one this one, better to throw it in the trash and move on. Onto the bullets…
- The Rangers were an absolute mess the first 10 minutes of the game. It all started when Dan Girardi covered a puck in the crease about a minute into the game. Jonathon Toews scored on the ensuing penalty shot. Bad turnovers and generally lazy play bit the Blueshirts for 3 more goals during that time and found themselves down 4-0 after one.
- After the 1st period, the Rangers started to play a little better. They were still playing fairly sloppy and disorganized in the offensive and neutral zones, but had cleaned up their defensive play. The ‘Hawks tried and tried to let the Rangers back into this one, but a combination of Corey Crawford, a brutal power play and some unfortunate bounces kept the Rangers at bay.
- Speaking of that power play, good god. 0-7 and barely bothered to mount an attack. Chicago threw a different penalty killing look at them; aggressively pressuring the point men before they could settle into the offensive zone and immediately collapsing when the Rangers did establish possession. This kept the power play pretty toothless all evening. Also, why in the world is John Mitchell getting PP time?
- Toews is an absolute monster on both sides of the puck.
- Chicago, for all it’s defensive ineptitude, is one dangerous offensive team. They combine speedy forwards with tremendous passing. This was the first time all season I saw our defense struggling to contain a team’s perimeter game.
- Mike Rupp must have caught a bad case of stone hands before this one.
- While I feel that The Suit’s assessment of Chicago’s goaltending is spot on, I must admit Corey Crawford played extremely well tonight. He was square to the shooter and made himself big all game.
- You have to feel for Marty Biron tonight. Not only was he victimized by 3 breakaway goals and a 6’8” screen in the first ten minutes, The Garden decided to throw a Bronx Cheer his way. ‘Cmon New York, you’re better than that. Biron rebounded to actually have a very solid final 50 minutes. He made several key saves that gave you false hope about a possible comeback.
- While the officiating was consistently erratic for both teams, it was inexcusable that play was blown dead before Cally put the puck in. It was clearly sitting loose on the goal line.
- Like I said, just delete this one from the memory banks and get back to the Rangers hockey we all know and love.
Off until Sunday when the lowly Blue Jackets come to town. How loud do you think the Rick Nash chatter will be this weekend? Oh and don’t forget to stop by tomorrow at noon for the BSB Live Chat!
The NHL universe is starting to acknowledge what Rangers fans have known for quite some time. The Rangers have the best goaltending in the NHL. TSN published goaltending rankings this week and the Rangers ranked first, ahead of the Boston Bruins tandem of Thomas and Rask.
Thanks to their duo, there could be some serious hardware making its way to the Rangers after this season. Individually, Lundqvist is in the mix for the Vezina and Hart trophies while as a tandem Biron and Lundqvist are well in the running for the Williams M Jennings trophy, a trophy awarded since 1981 to the goaltenders who conceded the least over the course of the season. The Rangers have never won the Jennings trophy.
It’s because of their goaltending that the Rangers are starting to be treated seriously league-wide as a legitimate playoff threat. It seems gone are the days where the Rangers got no respect from media outside of New York. If the Rangers improve their scoring consistency (and get bigger contributions from certain players) then the New York goaltenders should benefit as well.
Can Lundqvist improve? He has already shown remarkable improvement this season when you consider how his glove hand has become a strength rather than an area other teams look to exploit. In all seriousness he doesn’t appear to have a weakness aside from his adventures while stick handling outside of the crease. Even that should be able to be remedied.
The Rangers should – and in all honesty likely will – look to retain Martin Biron beyond this season. He has been a tremendous acquisition by Glen Sather and allows Lundqvist more rest and practice time while providing the Rangers continued excellence in net. Another thing to consider is the lack of prospects coming up through the organisation, making Biron that much more valuable. All in all, the Rangers are very lucky to have their goaltending tandem and finally they are getting the respect they deserve. Here’s hoping it’s underlined with some shiny trophies come seasons end.
The Rangers clipped the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime tonight at the Garden on the strength of a Brad Richards goal on a beautiful feed from Artem Anisimov. After a tough offensive night against Jersey, the Blueshirts got back to their game and were able to outlast a pesky Lightning team. On to the bullets…
- The first half or so of this game lacked any flow whatsoever. It seemed as the two teams were trying to get a read on the other’s forechecking scheme. Tampa didn’t appear to be running a full 1-3-1 but there was a hybrid trap thing going on that gave the Rangers trouble in the neutral zone.
- The Rangers only allowed 17 shots tonight (season low) and managed 31 of their own. Defensively, the Rangers were very solid with the exception of a couple costly breakdowns.
- Artem Anisimov played a much better game tonight than we have seen in recent weeks. He was contributing on each shift and going to work in the dirty areas. Hopefully this will be a sign of things to come.
- The powerplay actually looked a little better tonight. The new emphasis on getting pucks to the net from the perimeter can only bring better results. While they didn’t live up to Dave’s lofty goal of two PP goals (actually, Dave just said two PP goals…didn’t specify it could only be the Rangers) but I invite everyone to check out the comments of the Game Thread to Chris C’s crazy prediction about that PP goal.
- Prust’s line looked great all game.
- Outside of the one penalty he took, I barely noticed Steve Eminger out there. This is not necessarily a bad thing. For a 5/6 type defenseman to go unnoticed, it means he’s chewing up minutes without giving up too much.
- Carl Hagelin with another strong game.
- While I am psyched Brad Richards scored the clutch game winner in OT, I was more impressed with the shoulder fake Anisimov pulled off drawing two defensemen and a goalie right to him.
- Steven Stamkos is a force out there.
- Marty Biron played a quality game tonight. Exactly what a good backup should do. I’m curious to see if Torts plays Hank back to back this weekend or if Marty will see another start.
- Mathieu Garon played great in net for Tampa. He made a number of tough saves on Rangers’ chances and kept this game from getting out of hand.
- Good to see the Giants supporting New York solidarity at the game tonight.
- The Rangers have done a remarkable job this year coming back after losses and tonight followed the trend. The next few days will be another big test of this team’s resolve. With Philly, Washington, Boston and Chicago coming up, the Rangers can really start to position themselves to make a deep run into the post season by beating some of the NHL’s best teams.
Off tomorrow and then into enemy territory at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly for a Saturday matinee.
One last shameless plug, remember to be here on 2/10 at noon where I’ll be hosting a BSB Live Chat.
Since the Rangers have gotten such stellar goaltending this season, I thought I’d do an in-depth evaluation on what makes these guys so good at their craft. I am going to break each of the Rangers’ tender’s styles down into five categories: Stance, Movement/Crease depth, Equipment, Puck playing ability and Exploitable weaknesses. First up is Marty Biron, and Hank will follow shortly.
Biron utilizes a fairly standard stance set-up. He has his feet a little more than shoulder width apart and balances his body weight well. He seems to hold his body posture in a comfortable position, which allows him to have relatively little excess movement when he executes a save.
Marty is actually one of the more “old school” goalies in the NHL (obviously, that distinction does to the other Marty). He rarely uses butterfly slides to move around down low. While he does execute the butterfly as a save technique, it’s not much of a movement vehicle for him. He is a strong skater and relies much more on a standard up and down game for lateral mobility.
Benoit Allaire is a proponent of having his goalies play a little deeper in the net than your average keeper. The logic behind this is that it takes less distance to travel laterally if you aren’t taking an angle from higher outside of the crease. Since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, it is much easier to go from post to post than it is to load up your push foot and angle yourself from the top (or outside) the crease to the appropriate post. What you sacrifice for this decrease in distance to cover is the angle to the shooter. The closer you are to the shooter (assuming you are on your angle), the less net he can see behind you. There is a point of diminishing returns, but usually < 6 inches or so outside the top of the crease will give you the optimal depth on the original shot.
Biron tends to take the middle road for approaching a shooter. He doesn’t operate nearly as deep in the net as Hank does, but he tends to play deeper than your average goalie. Because of his size (6’2”, 180 lbs) and his solid positioning, it is a beneficial style for him to play.
The Rangers have been the beneficiary of incredibly solid goaltending from both of their tendys this year. There has been rampant debate on the interwebs about the league’s best tandem between the Blueshirts, Bruins, Canucks and Blues (Jaro Halak’s early season struggles notwithstanding). The biggest difference between the Rangers and the rest of the field is that they employ a traditional starter/backup arrangement, while the rest of the field has a starter/emerging starter set up. This makes the debate a little murky, but regardless, Rangers’ fans can feel very good about the men guarding the pipes this season. To the grades….
Martin Biron– I’m normally a very tough grader when it comes to goalie performance but the Rangers tandem is really tying my hands for the midterm grades. Marty has been a revelation in relief so far this season. His 2.06 GAA and .922 save % are high quality for a starter, much less a backup. His 8-2-0 record also bears out how well he has played behind Hank thus far. He plays an incredibly calm style, with very little excess movement, which helps keep his defense calm in front of him. He may not be the flashiest or the most athletic goalie in the league, but he is a rock back there. At only 10 games started through almost the first half, it would benefit Torts to get Marty a little more time down the stretch run if only to make sure Hank is fresh for the playoffs. Grade: A
Henrik Lundqvist– What more is there really to say about Henrik Lundqvist? At 29 years old he is coming into his physical prime. Goalies tend to mature late (not that Hank has been anything less than stellar his first six years, but those questioning his step forward this year seem to feel he is likely to regress to his career averages), which would explain the serious increase in almost all statistical categories. It appears Hank is really putting it all together right as this team heads into it’s window to contend. He currently sports a 1.89 GAA and a staggering .939 save percentage. I generally tend not to put a ton of stock in either of these stats as they are very context specific, but wow. Hank is the backbone of this team and with the way he has played in the first half, the sky is the limit for the King. Grade: A+
I just wanted to make one final point about the pace that the Rangers’ keepers are on this year. I have been reading quite a bit of conjecture about how they are likely to experience some regression between the pipes, and while it is certainly possible, I find it more likely the pace continues. Marty, even at 34, is not cut from the true backup cloth. He still could start on a non-contending team, and bringing that ability and experience to a backup role has been tremendous for his production. I don’t see an outlier here. His stats at the end of the year may not be as shiny as they stand today, but I don’t foresee a substantial decline in the quality of his play.
As for Hank, his consistency is what has made him a top 5 NHL goalie the past few years. It seems now he is ready to take a big step forward and couple that consistency with elite production. While there are several goalies having fantastic years so far, it would not surprise me in the slightest if this year the King takes home some serious hardware.
The Rangers played a very strong game in another contest that could have easily been a letdown. The Panthers really hung around in this one behind some solid goaltending by Scott Clemmensen, but in the end, the Blueshirts were too much for Florida, winning 3-2 in overtime. Onto the bullets…
- It took the Rangers about 10 minutes during the first period to find their legs, but once that happened they really took it to the Panthers. There were long stretches during this game that I completely forgot Marty Biron was playing.
- The Rangers had a huge shots advantage in this one, outshooting the Cats 41-21. It could have been over 50 if the Rangers could just hit the net a little more. Obviously, to find major negatives with this team right now is nitpicking, but I just wish they would hit the net when they have a clear lane. Make the goalie work for it.
- The Dubi-Richards-Cally combo was the best line on the ice tonight. They were working down low and moving the puck well. It seemed like every time they were on the ice Clemmensen had to deal with a puck bouncing around his crease. Getting garbage to the net is a huge part of this unit’s game and as the Winter Classic confirms, it is quite effective when you can create that kind of havoc in front.
- Gabby was missing from about the first half of the game, but really came on in the third period and launched that beauty in overtime. Bad gap control by the Florida defenders on that one.
- I thought Prust, Fedotenko and Rupp all played tremendous games. Feds had all kinds of snarl in his performance tonight and Rupp and Prust showed some serious chemistry out there.
- One thing that played a huge role in the Rangers’ success tonight was the presence of an aggressive forecheck. Not only does this kind of pressure lead to turnovers and offensive zone chances, but it also tires out the Florida defenders and keeps the puck out of the Rangers’ defensive zone. It was the main reason the Panthers were held to 21 shots.
- Speaking of which, another very solid game for the defense.
- Marty Biron played a solid, if unspectacular game tonight. The first goal was a beauty, so no fault to Marty there. The second one, on the other hand, could have sent the momentum right back to Florida. He got caught leaning/thinking pass and got beat on a shot I’m quite sure he’d want back. Fortunately, the Rangers held it together and came away with a nice win. Biron plays such a stoic, calm game, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate him for how easy he makes difficult saves look. Nothing more you could ask from a backup.
- As I mentioned before, Clemmensen played a very solid game and controlled rebounds nicely. I would have loved to see the Rangers challenge him up high more, if nothing else just to change his eye level. He was the only reason this game made it to overtime.
- As for any potential bad blood after the Kopecky/Del Zotto incident from the last time the teams met, there was only one notable scrum during this one. Looks like both teams decided to let sleeping dogs lie.
Right back at to tomorrow as the Rangers travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins at 7pm.